Peudoscientific thinking is a pervasive problem. This unit will provide students with an understanding of both what distinguishes good from bad science, and the psychology of how people come to form beliefs that appear scientifically sound but are not supported by evidence, and why those beliefs can be resistant to change. The unit uses examples from many areas of life, but with a particular emphasis on beliefs about human health, with a view to explaining how common and potentially harmful misconceptions have become so prevalent, such as the efficacy of homeopathy for cancer treatment. Psychological principles will be applied to specific examples of common pseudoscientific beliefs. Students will be encouraged to reflect on how learning biases may impact their own beliefs and assumptions, and understand the commonalities and differences in their own beliefs and beliefs across cultures. The knowledge gained will provide students with critical thinking skills that are applicable to evaluating evidence in any field of study or presented in the media and thus will be beneficial to their future studies and lives more generally. Students will do research into a particular pseudoscientific health practice or false belief and propose research about how to change people's practices and beliefs.
6 online modules that mix video lectures and reading
research paper on Belief Change (40%), 6x quizzes (15%), contribution to online group discussions (15%), final exam (30%)